Care after surgery is vital for not just the patient’s recovery, but in many cases, could make the difference between life and death. Medical negligence after surgery can cause the recovery process to become prolonged, and expose patients to life-threatening infections. Appropriate post-operative care is imperative for the success of the procedure. When medical professionals fail to comply with the standard of care during this crucial post-operative period, the consequences can be devastating.
If you or a loved one has suffered the consequences of such negligence or if you have lost a loved one as the result of acquired post-operative infection, you may be able to file a medical malpractice claim seeking compensation for your damages and losses. An experienced West Virginia surgical malpractice lawyer will be able to evaluate your legal rights and options.
What Does Post-Operative Care Mean?
Post-operative care, as the name suggests, is care that patients receive soon after a surgical procedure. The type of post-operative care you need typically depends on the type of procedure you underwent and your health history. Post-operative care also includes managing pain and wound care. This phase lasts for the duration of your hospital stay and may even continue after you’ve been discharged from the hospital. It is your healthcare provider’s responsibility to educate you about proper wound care and about the potential side effects and complications of your procedure.
Danger of Serious Infections
Your skin acts as a natural barrier against infection. Any surgery that causes a break in skin can lead to an infection. These are known as surgical site infections because they occur on the part of the body where the surgery was done. The chance of developing an infection after surgery is anywhere between 1% and 3%.
A surgical site infection usually occurs within 30 days after surgery. For example, a superficial incisional infection occurs in the area of the skin where the incision or cut was made. A deep incisional infection occurs under the incision area in the muscles and tissues surrounding the muscles. An “organ or space” infection can occur in any area of the body other than the skin, muscle and surrounding tissue such as a body organ or a space between organs.
Infections after surgery are caused by pathogens, primarily bacteria. These pathogens can infect a surgical wound through various forms of contact such as from the touch of a caregiver or surgical instrument, through germs in the air or through germs that are already in your body and then spread to the wound.
There are a number of risk factors for surgical site infections and they include having surgery that lasts more than two hours; having other medical problems or diseases; being overweight; smoking; having cancer; having a weak immune system; having diabetes; undergoing emergency surgery or abdominal surgery.
Deadly MRSA Infections
MRSA stands for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, which is a serious infection caused by a type of staph bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics. A majority of MRSA infections occur in people who have been in hospitals or other healthcare settings such as nursing homes or dialysis centers. These infections are also typically linked to invasive procedures or devices such as surgeries, intravenous tubing or artificial joints.
Staph skin infections, including MRSA, begin as swollen, painful red bumps that might resemble pimples or spider bites. The affected area might be warm to the touch, be full of pus or other drainage and be accompanied by a fever. These can turn into deep, painful abscesses that require surgical draining. The bacteria can also burrow deep into the body causing potentially life-threatening infections in bones, joints, surgical wounds, the bloodstream, heart valves and lungs.
Post Operative Standard of Care
In medical negligence cases, a healthcare professional has a legal duty, which is known as the “medical standard of care.” A provider can be held liable when there is a breach of the standard of care, which results in health complications or poor outcomes for the patient.
The medical standard of care is the level of care that a similarly qualified health care provider with the same level of education in the same geographic region would provide. In any type of surgical procedure, the standard of care would include post-operative care. When a provider deviates from the standard of care during the post-operative period, they can be held liable for medical negligence.
In the case of surgery, the standard of care covers the pre-operative consultation, the surgery or procedure itself and care after surgery. A breach of the standard of care at any of these three phases could lead to potential liability. When it comes to care after surgery, healthcare providers are responsible for making sure that they take adequate measures to prevent infections. This is done by monitoring a patient’s status after the procedure is completed – whether it is in the hospital or medical facility or by following up at the patient’s home.
Compensation for Your Losses
When a surgeon or medical professional makes an error during surgery including during the post-operative stage that is preventable, and a patient is injured or killed as a result, there are a number of parties that can be held liable for such negligence. Injured victims can seek compensation from the hospital, surgeon, staff members and other potential parties for damages such as medical expenses, lost income, hospitalization, cost of unnecessary surgeries, permanent injuries, pain and suffering and emotional distress. Families that have lost loved ones due to medical negligence can seek compensation for their losses as well by filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
If you or a loved one have suffered complications as a result of severe post-operative infections at hospitals such as Ruby Memorial Hospital, Monongalia General (Mon General) Hospital, Mon Health Systems WVU University Health Associates or private clinics in West Virginia, the Robinette Legal Group PLLC can help you better understand your legal rights and options. Call us today at 304-594-1800 for a free, comprehensive and confidential consultation.